My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


How To Scare The Bejeezus Out Of A Whole State In Just Four Words


So read the front page of Saturday's Rocky Mountain News. And in four little words an entire state and a major industry takes a giant in breath and holds it.

Colorado's $2 billion ski industry could be dead by 2050 unless radical steps are taken to address global warming and save the state's prized champagne powder.

This is not a line from the latest Hollywood disaster flick about the impending climate apocalypse. And it's not the Chicken Little ravings of some kook on late-night talk radio.

This gloomy pronouncement comes from an executive at the Aspen Skiing Co., operators of a four-mountain ski mecca in one of the world's best-known and poshest destination resorts.

"Things look bleak," said Auden Schendler, the company's director of environmental affairs.

The most likely scenario for Colorado's 25 ski resorts, unless global emissions of heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases are reined in: "Gone in 2050 . . . Maybe - good case scenario - gone by 2100," he said.

But just read down and see how many qualifiers and modifications the News has to include in its story just to be within spitting distance of credible:

But uncertainty about the amount of warming, the reliability of computerized climate models used in such studies - and especially about how precipitation patterns will change in the Colorado Rockies - leaves plenty of room for speculation. . .

In the Colorado ski industry, opinions about the likely impacts of climate change run the gamut, and some observers reject Schendler's views as overly negative and unjustified. . .

"But I'm not as pessimistic as Auden," he said. "I think we'll be able to adapt.". .

Scientists acknowledge the limits of the computer models used to project future climate at the regional level. . .

"I can't say that this is absolute certainty, nor put a probability figure on it, but I think it's a distinct possibility that we're going to lose the snowpacks in the West and with that the ski industry," Wagner said. . .

The latest version of the Community Climate Systems Model from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, for example, calls for a "slight annual increase" in precipitation over the Colorado Rockies by 2100, said Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the lab. . .

But no one knows for sure what will happen. . .

In fact, a temperature increase of 4 degrees could result in higher snowfall totals during the coldest winter months at Vail and other Colorado resorts, said Jensen, who has worked in the industry for 31 years.

You would think uncertainty of this type would be enough to moderate the front page, 190-point font that this headline came out in. And if not that, how about this (my personal favorite):

The two computerized climate models used in the regional assessment, known informally as the Hadley and Canadian models, project a 4.5- to 14.4-degree warming in the Rocky Mountains and Great Basin by 2100.

But most of the latest models suggest the West will warm between 3.6 and 10.8 degrees by 2100 as levels of heat-trapping gases continue to rise, according to Daniel Cayan, director of the climate research division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

Now, as I recall from my Physics labs oh, those many years ago, when we were trying to measure something, we would rarely accept a margin of error of greater than 10%, and that only because of the limits of our measuring equipment in a 1987-era high school Physics class. So when the range projected by the primary climate model used for this article allows for a margin of error of over 100 percent (if you start from the median and work to the extremes), I get a little bit skeptical. Even when the more moderate of the models has a MOE of exactly 100%, it has to make you wonder if there's any credibility to these climate models. And if you consider that the two models are different by over 20% on their medians, the wonder has to increase a bit.

No, scratch that. It doesn't make you wonder--of course they have no credibility.

As somebody smart said only recently, these same computer models can't even predict the weather tomorrow or next week; how should we trust what they think is going to happen in 100 years?

And, more importantly, why in the world would the News run with that headline? And this is the "conservative" paper in the Denver metro area.

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